Affording the Mouse
If you’re visiting WDW this fall for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, you might want to take in one of these fun “Eat to the Beat” concerts. There are definitely a few on the list that I’d love to see–especially Manhattan Transfer, the Go-Go’s, and Boys II Men! Here’s the lineup:
Sept. 27-29: Starship starring Mickey Thomas
Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Go-Go’s
Oct. 2-4: Air Supply
Oct. 5-6: Sister Hazel
Oct. 7-9: Sugar Ray
Oct. 10-11: Edwin McCain
Oct. 12-13: Manhattan Transfer
Oct. 14-15: Wilson Phillips
Oct. 16-17: The Pointer Sisters
Oct. 18-20: Night Ranger
Oct. 21-23: Boyz II Men
Oct. 24-25: Survivor
Oct. 26-27: 38 Special
Oct. 28-30: Smash Mouth
Oct. 31-Nov. 1: Spin Doctors
Nov. 2-3: Christopher Cross
Nov. 4-5: Hanson
Nov. 6-8: Dennis DeYoung
Nov. 9-11: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Affording the Mouse
I shared many tips over the years on how to save money on food at Walt Disney World. But even the cheapest among us (yes, I’m speaking of myself) likes to splurge every now and then. While we’re not big fans of spending too much time (or money!) in table service restaurants while on vacation, our family usually tries to splurge on at least one new dining experience each trip. So my tip is two-fold: First, make your ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations) as early as possible–in most cases, you can do this 180 days in advance of your arrival. This step has become increasingly important in recent years, as “Free Fall Dining” promotions have become the norm. And second, be sure to know about any dining closures for your travel dates. Obviously, when you call to make ADRs, you will be alerted to closures for table service restaurants, but it’s also good to know if your favorite counter service eatery is going to be closed too. Here’s a list of current and upcoming closures:
- ESPN Club (BoardWalk Resort): closed now and will re-open late spring
- BoardWalk Bakery, BoardWalk Resort: currently closed and expected to open late spring or early summer
- Main Street Bakery (Magic Kingdom): currently closed and will re-open May 18 as a Starbucks location
- California Grill (Contemporary Resort): closed now through late summer
- Fountain View Cafe (Epcot): closing in March and will reopen sometime this summer as a Starbucks location
- Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom): closing briefly for refurbishment May 13-16
Affording the Mouse
I have been wanting to try this recipe for Liberty Tree Tavern’s Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake since before the holidays, but we’ve been burried under a sea of Christmas goodies. We had some friends over this weekend, so I decided we were past the post-New Year sugar shock stage and could finally tackle it. The recipe is rather simple (I do not claim to be a skilled chef or even much of a foodie), and the ingredients are pretty basic, with only the key ingredient–toffee–being even slightly out of the ordinary. Plan on about 20 minutes of prep time and around 35 baking time. You prep the dish in two layers, but it bakes together. The consistency is really more of a bar than a cake, and you can cut the sweetness a bit by serving it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Here’s the recipe:
Cake “Crust” Ingredients
- 1 standard box of yellow cake mix
- 1 large egg
- 1 stick of butter, softened (1/2 cup)
Mix these ingredients together and press into a pan, much like you would a graham cracker crust. (I did mine in two 8 x 8″ pans so that I could make one without the toffee for my allergy kid, but you could use a 9 x 12″ or even muffin tins. ) Set aside, and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Cake Top Ingredients
- 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick)
- 1 pound of powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup of toffee bits (you can buy Heath bar pieces, or you can buy whole bars and smash them in a zipper bag with a rubber mallet)
Beat cream cheese until smooth. (You can use a mixer, but a whisk is sufficient.) Add eggs and vanilla, continuing to stir and whip ingredients with each new ingredient. Add butter and mix well. Gradually sift in powdered sugar, and mix until creamy. Stir in chocolate chips and toffee bits, but don’t over-mix! Pour mixture over the “crust” and bake approximately 35 minutes. Edges should be golden brown, and the center should be “gooey” but not raw.
This recipe got a big thumbs up from the whole gang! As I mentioned, I made one version without the toffee for my daughter who has a tree nut allergy (toffee contains almonds), and although that version was slightly less glorious, it was still pretty awesome. We served ours with whipped cream, but I think vanilla ice cream on a warm piece would be pretty heavenly–and the ice cream would help cut through some of the incredibly rich sweetness. This is not your every-day dessert! But we’ll definitely keep this recipe in our arsenal of special occasion favorites.
Affording the Mouse
OK, let me first apologize for being a total slacker. The truth is, I’ve been busy as a bee and trying to enjoy what little free time we have with my family. But because of this, I have totally neglected Affording the Mou$e. I’ll do my best to catch you up on the major happenings around the World in this post. First, here is some info on a room-only discount that released to the general public this week (after a brief offering to Disney Visa Cardholders first):
- Discounts vary from 15 to 30% off regular rack rates at Disney World Resorts, for travel dates from February 18 through June 24, with blackout dates March 24 through April 1. The deal must be booked by March 7.
- In general, it appears that most Deluxe Resorts offer 30% off, with most Moderates offering 25% off, and Values offering 20% off. The family suites at Art of Animation are 15% off. That said, there are some resorts excluded (or offered at a lower percentage off) and not all dates are available for all resorts.
- You can add the meal plan and tickets for even greater savings.
And now, on to an update of closures and refurbishments:
- Splash Mountain has closed for a lengthy refurbishment and will reopen on March 20.
- The Mad Tea Party will be closed January 7 through February 18.
- The Main Street Bakery has closed and will re-open sometime this summer as a Starbucks location. Have no fear–they will continue to offer many of the yummy pastries we all love.
- The Liberty Square Riverboat will close for a brief refurbishment February 1-7.
- The Character Spot remains closed through February. Temporary meet-n-greet locations have been set up. Consult the Times Guide or ask a Cast Member for the location of your favorite characters.
- Fountain View will close in March and re-open this summer as a Starbucks location.
- Habit Heroes remains closed in Innoventions, but there are rumblings that it could reopen this month.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Beauty and the Beast will be closed January 7-12 for a brief refurbishment.
- Disney Junior, Live on Stage! closes January 14 through February 14.
- Kali River Rapids will be closed January 6 through February 15 (but who really wants to ride that in the winter, anyhow?).
- Mr. Kamal’s is closed January 6-26.
- Beastly Bazaar remains closed, as it is being re-themed as a meet-n-greet, with no re-opening date given.
And, finally, a contest. Log onto www.disneytimesweeps.com and enter every day between now and January 31 for a chance to win a Walt Disney World vacation. They’re giving away one every day!
Affording the Mouse
I have been terribly remiss about keeping up with the updates around Walt Disney World. My only defense is the same as everyone else’s: busyness! The holidays have really snuck up on me. (That explains why so many of my posts lately have been Amazon deals…I am still struggling to get my shopping done!) Pair that with a still fairly new-to-us home, a husband’s crazy work schedule, the start of Upward cheer season (I’m a coach), and our normal lives as a homeschooling family, and I simply haven’t been able to keep up with the Most Magical Place on Earth as much as I would like. But this morning, I finally carved out some time to read up on some exciting new developments, which I now share below (in shorthand) for you.
- The new Fantasyland expansion area continues to draw the crowds, with wait times exceeding 100 minutes at the Under the Sea–Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction. FYI, if you have a visit planned, you’ll want to note that Fastpasses for the ride are located in OLD Fantasyland near Mickey’s Philharmagic, not near the Little Mermaid attraction.
- Be Our Guest restaurant (new Fantasyland) will be testing a system that would allow guests to essentially reserve a time for lunch and even pre-order food. Guests would then arrive at the restaurant at the appointed time and go through an express checkout, where they would be given a magical rose (much like traditional restaurant “beepers”) to take to their chosen table where the food would later be delivered. Sounds like a viable solution for eliminating the lunchtime bottleneck that seems to be happening in this very popular new eatery.
- WDW has just completed yet another test of the new Fastpass+ system–the first of these tests that also included live shows. (Many of us were curious as to how they would fit into the picture when the original concept was first introduced.) Certainly there are both pros and cons to the system, but based on how many of the new kiosks are sprouting up around the World, I’m guessing it’s here to stay. I have yet to personally experience it, but I’m fluctuating between being excited about the new technology and lamenting over losing a system that I am familiar and comfortable with.
- There was a lot of buildup, and if you weren’t in the Magic Kingdom on the evening of December 5 you missed it, but the dragon flew. And, as Forest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
- While Fantasyland was having its “Grand Re-Opening,” Test Track was not to be outdone, when it rolled out its 2.0 version on December 6. There was a band (One Republic), pyrotechnics, WDW execs and such…it was kind of epic. I hear the attraction is pretty cool too. Our family is pretty psyched about giving it a whirl on our next visit!
- Disney has retooled the official Walt Disney World website. Check it out here.
Those are the highlights for now. Back to my Christmas shopping. Oooh…here’s another great deal I found on Amazon (Ok, this one is actually from MY list):
Affording the Mouse
While it has been operating in soft opening for quite a while now, today is the official opening of the new Fantasyland, including several new attractions, restaurants, and experiences. Hop on over to the Official Disney Parks Blog for highlights and photos. I so wish I could be there!